It’s easy to get carried away into a false sense that you’re really working hard in an indoor cycling class as you keep on pedaling away, but what you might know is that you could be cheating your ride. For one, if there’s no resistance on the bike, once that weighted flywheel is set into motion, it will stay in motion, like Sir Isaac Newton’s law of motion dictates—regardless of whether you push against the pedals.
This is one reason why it’s important to have sufficient resistance on the bike, so that you’re actually causing it to move.
Don’t just take my word for it. Try this experiment: Take all the resistance off the bike and stand next to it. Grab the closest pedal with one hand and make it turn as fast as you can for 8 to 10 revolutions; release the pedal (be careful to stay out of the way of the moving pedal) and watch how long it takes to slow down. As you can see, once it gains a certain momentum, the flywheel basically drives itself, which means that if you’re riding with low resistance, your legs are essentially being taken for a ride.
Of course, sometimes it’s okay to dog it—like when you’re feeling slightly under the weather or you’re coming off an injury, or you just feel worn out and want to take it easy. But often people don’t realize they’re not working as hard as they should to reap the benefits they want from their cycling workouts; in these instances, they’re inadvertently shortchanging themselves.
To get a reality check on whether you’re cheating in a cycle class, ask yourself the following questions:
Are you riding with too little resistance on the bike? If your pedal strokes feel too loose and easy, they probably are. Even when you’re on a “flat road”, there should be resistance. Think of it this way: Taking all the resistance off is equivalent to riding downhill, meaning you won’t even need to pedal to keep the flywheel moving.
When an instructor says to take a certain amount of resistance off after climbing a hill or while riding an active recovery interval, sometimes people take off too much. You should always feel like you’re pushing against something as you pedal, even light resistance during recoveries.
Are you offloading your weight? If you’re leaning on the handlebars while seated, you’re throwing your posture out of its proper alignment, which could lead to injury. If you’re doing it while riding in a standing position, you’re cheating yourself of the chance to challenge your leg muscles optimally and build core strength.
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